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Call for Solidarity: NPR gets demonstrator fired

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NPR Gets Radio Host Fired for Occupying

National Public Radio on Wednesday discovered that a woman named Lisa Simeone who produced hosted a show about opera called "World of Opera" had been participating in a nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., organized by October2011.org. That same day, NPR persuaded a company for which Simeone worked to fire her, cutting her income in half and purging from the so-called public airwaves a voice that had never mentioned politics on NPR.

This frantic email was sent to all NPR staff:

From:NPR Communications
Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 6:12 PM
Subject: From Dana Rehm: Communications Alert

To: All Staff
Fr: Dana Davis Rehm
Re: Communications Alert

We recently learned of World of Opera host Lisa Simeone’s participation in an Occupy DC group. World of Opera is produced by WDAV, a music and arts station based in Davidson, North Carolina. The program is distributed by NPR. Lisa is not an employee of WDAV or NPR; she is a freelancer with the station.

We're in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously.

As a reminder, all public comment (including social media) on this matter is being managed by NPR Communications.

All media requests should be routed through NPR Communications at 202.513.2300 or mediarelations@npr.org. We will keep you updated as needed. Thanks.

##

Also see NPR's blog post about this here.

About three and a half hours after the above email was sent, Simeone had been fired by a show called Soundprint as punishment for having been "unethical." Here is her bio on that show's website. And here she is on NPR's.

Correntians, please let NPR know how you feel about this. This is how the right wing maintains hold on our country, anyone who stands up for justice loses their job.

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Submitted by MontanaMaven on

I don't listen to the "Morning Edition" or anything smacking of "news" on NPR. Still love "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me", the comedy news quiz. (Catch the October 15 show with a hilarious routine between the IPhone's new personal assistant Siri and her user.)
Call your local affiliate and tell them why you won't be contributing to their fund drives.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.
Groucho Marx

Submitted by jawbone on

Mara Liasson is able to "demonstrate" her Repub bona fides on FOX News and keep her NPR reporting gig. Which seems to be a conflict of interest, and more so when she's assigned to cover presidential candidates.

While looking for a news report on this most recent egregious personnel action by NPR, I came across this article from June '05 about an arts freelancer of 21 years who was fired by NPR for reporting accurately about WWII art illegally in the collection of NYC's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

The museum complained to NPR about the coverage; David D'Arcy gonzo.

I recognize the name, but had no idea he was "disappeared" from NPR.

National Public Radio made a huge mistake ousting its veteran arts reporter David D'Arcy and is still trying to cover it up. The latest attempt came during an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board when the network refused to produce documents that would allegedly clarify why he was fired and Tom Cole, a unionized NPR staff editor who supervised the story, was disciplined.

D'Arcy..., who freelanced for NPR for 21 years, was fired in January after the Museum of Modern Art complained about a story he did exposing the museum's involvement in a case of Holocaust art theft (the Egon Shiele painting "Portrait of Wally") and pointing out the contradictory stands on Nazi-looted art restitution expressed by both MoMA and its billionaire board chairman Ronald Lauder, who also happens to collect Shiele paintings.

In addition to firing D'Arcy, NPR ran a "correction" to the story that experts on the restitution of Nazi-looted art say is misleading and brazenly inaccurate, not to mention damaging to D'Arcy's reputation for thorough, in-depth reporting on the issue of Holocaust art theft.

"NPR failed to provide documentation about mysterious activities on this matter, which they say is confidential," says Ken Greene, who sought the NLRB investigation as a union official of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artist's Baltimore-Washington chapter. "They cited attorney-client privilege for information we requested. We say this information was not between attorneys and clients but between managers."

The "mysterious activities" involve "what happened during three weeks, from Jan. 6 to 27," he said. That is around the time MoMA is alleged to have brought pressure on NPR in phone calls and other communications with NPR President and CEO Kevin Klose and NPR news executives. "They never asserted attorney-client privilege about this information until the NLRB investigation," Greene added. "But the union expects the information to be disclosed when we subpoena witnesses for an arbitration hearing."

There's more to the story at the link, plus links within the article

He who pays the piper pays the tune....

When "public" radio is dependent on the charity of the Top One Percent, these kinds of things happen. The TIME commentary makes that observation.

TIME report: NPR Listeners May Finally be Protected from Opera Bias.

Baltimore Sun report: NPR looking into show host Lisa Simeone's role with Occupy Washington group.

The issue of someone associated with NPR, which has long asserted its non-partisan approach to broadcasting, serving as a spokesperson for such an overtly partisan effort was raised this week at The Daily Caller, a conservative website.

"National Public Radio host Lisa Simeone appears to be breaking the taxpayer-subsidized network's ethics rules by acting as a spokeswoman for Occupy D.C. group 'October 2011,' which is currently "occupying" Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.," Matthew Boyle wrote in a piece posted Wednesday afternoon.

SNIP

Here's a sample of Simeone's writing as it appears on the October 2011 website:

It's long past time for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to end, for U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen to end, for our worldwide torture regime to end, for Guantanamo to be closed, for political, military, and corporate criminals to be held accountable. We're spending billions of dollars on destruction abroad and abrogation of rights at home -- the only growing sector of the economy is the abusive National Security State.

So, the right can take down arts program hosts, as well as fundraisers and managers. And NPR jumps right to the task of getting rid of inconvenient employees (freelancers, albeit appearing on many NPR programs -- anyone who listens to classical music on public radio stations will probably have heard Lisa Simeone and probably would have assumed she was an employee).

And NPR is so jumpy about these things, it's becoming a top down controlling organization, seeing that as their best means of self-defense. And we get? Pablum news, almost as directly stenographic as the WaPo's reporting, sucking up to power. Now what? We'll get rightwing classical music discussions and selections?

I'm kind of sick to my stomach.

Update: Lisa Simeone's YouTube "I'll Be There" promo for October2011 rally/occupation in DC. Put up 7/28/11, before the Occupation meme had spread.

Interesting that she made no secret of her support, at least on the YouTube "I'll Be There" campaign, so NPR might well have been aware of this since late July. Since large organizations get feeds on all of their activities and well-known employees, I bet they knew on the 29th at the latest.

But they acted when a rightwing group called attention to Simeone's actions. NPR so sooooo spoooooooked by the rightwinger's attack pups and dogs.

I'm starting to smell a whiff of McCarthyism in the air, what with people losing jobs at NPR if they are active in civic life.... Wonder if writers and actors will be blacklisted....

What next? Will Garrison Keillor be considered "too partisan"?

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Feeling the heat, NPR is now moonwalking, but no less internally conflicted for it:

Other than Lisa's role as host, Soundprint and WDAV's World of Opera are completely unrelated. As we indicated last night, we are in conversation with WDAV about this matter. We fully respect that the management of WDAV is solely responsible for the decision making around Lisa's participation in Occupy DC and her freelance role with WDAV's program.

Hello cluestick, nobody is fooled by this corporate double-speak, if WDAV is "solely responsible" then why the fuck are you in conversations with them?????

Sorry, I don't fall in love with politicians. I'm not that desperate.....

Submitted by jawbone on

From David Swanson's post on the situation:

...“I find it puzzling that NPR objects to my exercising my rights as an American citizen — the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly — on my own time in my own life. I’m not an NPR employee. I’m a freelancer. NPR doesn’t pay me. I’m also not a news reporter. I don’t cover politics. I’ve never brought a whiff of my political activities into the work I’ve done for NPR World of Opera. What is NPR afraid I’ll do — insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?

This sudden concern with my political activities is also surprising in light of the fact that Mara Liasson reports on politics for NPR yet appears as a commentator on FoxTV, Scott Simon hosts an NPR news show yet writes political op-eds for national newspapers, Cokie Roberts reports on politics for NPR yet accepts large speaking fees from businesses. Does NPR also send out ‘Communications Alerts’ about their activities?”

Well, it's clear that NPR values Liasson's FOX role as it gives them some cover from rightwing attacks. And Cokie and Simon are so very carefully Corporatist in their speech it only helps with NPR's fundraising among the power elites and Big Money.

But...going to the left? OMG! Bring the smelling salts and loosen those pearls they're clutching! Can Not Allow Leftish Views or Those Who Express Leftish Views on NPR!

Swanson closes with this call for actions:

The most important point to stress here, I think, is that all requests should be routed through NPR Communications at 202-513-2300 or mediarelations@npr.org.

More telephone numbers from commenter forest:

NPR ombudsman office Listener Services: (202) 513-3232

For amusement purposes call Corporate Sponsorship: (202) 513-2093

I left a brief message on WNYC's fundraising page expressing my disappointment in NPR's approach and actions. I must call NPR and email as well.

Hey! How about an Occupy NPR?

Submitted by Alcuin on

While protesting to NPR about the firing of Lisa may be useful, I think what would be much more productive would be to find out who owns Soundprint. I'm sure it is a private company, but there should be a way to find out the names of the principals and do a bit of research on them. Do they get funding from "liberal" foundations? That line about journalistic integrity is just so much you-know-what. I'll see what I can turn up via the Internet.

SourceWatch has some interesting information about the funding of NPR: 11% from the federal government, 18% from businesses, including Clear Channel Communications, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart. Foundation money comes from the Ford Foundation, EBSCO Information Services, and the Pew Charitable Trust, among others.

A look at the Muckety map of NPR is interesting to look at, also.

The important thing is to never stop questioning. - Albert Einstein

Submitted by Alcuin on

Jared Weissbrot is the director and Moira Rankin is the executive producer of Soundprint Media Center, Inc. I'm not a member of Facebook or LinkedIn - if anyone here is, that would be a start for more information. I'm guessing that the right wing has NPR so scared for its financial future that NPR is jettisoning anyone who might damage their "creds".

From the Baltimore Sun:

"In my mind, it's fine if you want to be a leader of an organized protest movement, but you can't also be in a journalistic role," Moira Rankin, president of Soundprint, told The Associated Press a day after she fired Simeone. "You can't be the host of a journalism program and plead that you are different than the reporter who is going to come on a minute after you introduce the program."

How does being the host of a show on opera mean that one is also a journalist?

Yes, seems as though McCarthyism is rearing its head once again.

The important thing is to never stop questioning. - Albert Einstein

Submitted by Alcuin on

Seems as though it was Matthew Boyle, of The Daily Caller, who "broke" the story at 12:14 p.m. 10/19/2011. Of course, Andrew Breitbart was also involved.

The important thing is to never stop questioning. - Albert Einstein

dugsdale's picture
Submitted by dugsdale on

...that was the subject line in the email I sent to NPR on this matter. I also concluded, "Next time the old pledge drive comes up, you should go straight to your natural allies, the Koch Brothers. I won't dirty my money by sending you any."

I sent a copy of that to Soundprint, and suggested that shame might be an appropriate emotional response to their actions. Reading the pusillanimous response of the Soundprint executive quoted above ("it's fine if you want to be a leader of an organized protest movement, but you can't also be in a journalistic role") my note to Soundprint should have been stronger.

I have a real curiosity to know the mechanism by which the right-wing robots research this stuff. Do they run the names of NPR employees thru The Google to see if nasty stuff shows up? What a lot of time, effort, and money that must involve! What kind of operation unearths this stuff (not forgetting the NY assistant a.g. who was recently "exposed" as an S&M practitioner)? Are they using Cray supercomputers to cross-check this stuff? (They're apparently funded well enough to.)

Inquiring minds want to know--until then, I'll just write emails!

dugs for short

Submitted by Alcuin on

If you'll read my comment that gives the link to Muckety (and go there), you'll see that NPR, far from being a "leftist" or "progressive" organization, is a very mainstream, Establishment organization. I suspect that one of its many members (not all classical music lovers are radical left wingers), who watches the World of Opera show that Ms. Simeone hosts, saw her name in association with October2011.org and "ratted" her out to someone in the right-wing. What progressives often forget is that we are very, very much in the minority. This country is a very conservative country and the capitalists are not going to yield the stage to OWS protesters easily. Hillary Clinton was right to say that there is a vast right-wing conspiracy in this country. Not that I think much of Hillary Clinton!

The important thing is to never stop questioning. - Albert Einstein

Submitted by lambert on

If you take the numbers for those who think ObamaCare didn't go far enough as a proxy for the numerical support for the left, we're about the same size as the TPers -- 16% IIRC.

We have no funding and get no coverage and have no voice. We are also where all the new ideas are to be found. That's the difference between us and the TPers That's one thing all the current ferment is about, adn why the Versailles left, that has failed us (though not itself) so badly is scrambling to, well, bottle and cap the ferment, and then sell it.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Submitted by Alcuin on

Maybe it's just me that's the minority! :)

The important thing is to never stop questioning. - Albert Einstein

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

From the “Classical Musings Blog” of wdav.org here:

We are seeing a lot of misleading media reports about WDAV’s relationship to World of Opera host Lisa Simeone. To clarify and correct:

As host of World of Opera, Lisa Simeone is an independent contractor of WDAV Classical Public Radio. Ms. Simeone’s activities outside of this job are not in violation of any of WDAV’s employee codes and have had no effect on her job performance at WDAV. Ms. Simeone remains the host of World of Opera.

We continue to work with NPR to find a solution to the issues surrounding World of Opera, and we’ll publish any updates here!

[emphasis added]

Simeone was also the host of “Soundprint,” another show on NPR and, according to this Salon article, said she was fired Wednesday night from that show by executive producer Moira Rankin.

Every apathetic citizen is a silent enlistee in the cause of inverted totalitarianism.—Sheldon Wolin

Lightpond's picture
Submitted by Lightpond on

NPR's slide into the dark side accelerated with the 2008 election. I cannot stand listening any more.

It was therefore a pleasure to let them hear from a former listener.